Latest update: July 2nd, 2013
Clear Thinking Needed
Re “Seeking Unity in the Ranks of Israel” (front page essay, June 14):
I think it is obvious that all parties in the controversy over drafting yeshiva students in Israel need to take a step back and think with clear heads.
When a few haredim join with Palestinians who praise terrorist murderers of Jews or with Holocaust deniers in Iran, haredi leaders need to publicly call them out as sonei Yisrael who perpetuate a terrible chillul Hashem.
And when haredim call Israeli police “Nazis” or shout at frum Israeli soldiers for serving in the Israel Defense Forces, haredi leaders should make it clear that this also is a tremendous chillul Hashem.
On the other hand, there should be demonstrations – peaceful demonstrations – when yeshivas are threatened with mass inductions of talmidim and even curriculum interference. It should be made clear that the miraculous survival of Israel – and indeed it is a miracle, as after thousands of years millions of Jews from all parts of the world have returned and made the land bloom while yeshivas thrive like never before – is due to Hashem’s protection and that all the Torah being learned in Israel helps bring about that protection.
We must realize that we are all brothers and that sinas Yisrael is a major aveira and, yes, chillul Hashem.
Still More On Parade Controversy (I)
It is extremely unfortunate how the presence of Queer Jewish Youth at the Celebrate Israel Parade led some members of the community to boycott the parade to avoid the appearance of “marching together.”
In their shitah, it is a maras ayin situation akin to sitting in a treif restaurant even when abstaining from its products. If readers Avi Goldstein and Dr. Yitzchok Levine (Letters, June 14) wish to apply this concept to the parade, perhaps they ought to move out of New York, because living in and paying taxes to a state that endorses same-sex marriage could also be regarded as an “implicit validation” of toevah.
Where does it stop?
Still More On Parade Controversy (II)
Reader Avi Goldstein, referring to the movement to boycott the Celebrate Israel Parade over its inclusion of LGTBQ organizations, says that “Orthodox groups must be very careful not to appear to grant legitimacy to immoral behavior.”
It’s crucial to point out, first, that Goldstein does not represent all Orthodox Jews, and that many Modern Orthodox Jews, like readers Tova Ross and Daniel Weintraub (Letters, June 7) found the boycott call highly offensive because they live in the real world and realize that most of the rhetoric about LGTBQ Jews emanating from the usual suspects is ignorant nonsense.
The exclusion of LGTBQ groups from the parade would not only create another needless and very public fissure in the Jewish community between Orthodox and non-Orthodox groups but would result in a parade that neither reflects the American Jewish community nor our community’s broad support for Israel.
More important, LGTBQ groups deserve to march in the parade because they have done important work in promoting Israel’s cause in the larger LGTBQ community. I am personally familiar with the work of Arthur Slepian, the executive director of “A Wider Bridge,” an LGTBQ organization based in San Francisco that marched in the parade and focuses specifically on Israel advocacy within the LGTBQ community.
The Celebrate Israel Parade is an event that celebrates Israel, not Orthodox Judaism. Israel is a state where the LGTBQ community is welcome, and indeed, a major part of Israel’s hasbara is to contrast this societal openness, and its similarity to America’s openness, with the Arab world’s often oppressive societies, where homosexuality is a crime.
It is also one of the few communal events where Jews from all denominations come together to support a common cause. Jews like Avi Goldstein and Dr. Yitzchok Levine should honor that common cause, rather than using the parade as a battlefield to fight Jewish culture wars.
My Rebbe Too
Re Rabbi Dovid M. Cohen’s moving tribute to Rav Dovid Lifshitz (“My Rebbe’s Rebbe,” op-ed, June 14):
When I became engaged, my husband wanted to take me to Rav Lifshitz, who was his rebbe, for a berachah. I had never met a rebbe before. I was very close to our family rav, but the concept of a rebbe was foreign to me.
I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. I remember asking my chassan if his rebbe was going to test me on Chumash!
We went to Rav Lifshitz’s apartment in Washington Heights. What I remember first and foremost was that Rebbe refused to give us a berachah for our engagement until he first gave a berachah to my older sister, insisting she should get married first. (She did.) Only then did we receive our berachah.
Rav Dovid had been the bochen (official examiner) of the boys who attended Yeshiva Rabbeinu Chaim Ozer elementary school in the Bronx. My husband was a student there, so Rav Dovid had been part of his life since he was a small boy. When my husband’s father passed away in 1955, Rebbe made sure that both my husband and his brother had everything they could possibly need.
My husband continued on through the YU high school and college system so Rav Lifshitz, a rosh yeshiva at YU, remained a constant presence in his life.
In my home, when my mother had any concerns she would call a rav, and I similarly felt that if I had any questions or if any issues came up before my chassunah I could either call Rav Dovid or go over to his house, no questions asked. He was always available to me.
Customarily, Rebbe would go to Eretz Yisrael around Elul, which, it just so happened, was when our chassunah was scheduled to take place. He could not be our mesader kiddushin but he sent us a letter informing us that he went to all the makomot kadoshim (holy places) to daven for us on our special day.
The years passed and I gave birth to our second son. As Lubavitcher chassidim, we had named our oldest son Yosef Yitzchak, the name of the previous (Frierdiker) Lubavitcher Rebbe. The date of our second son’s bris fell on the 5th of Menachem Av, the yahrzeit of both the AriZal and Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski. It seemed fitting to give our second son the latter’s name as the Frierdieker Rebbe and Rav Chaim Ozer had been close friends.
I wanted Rav Dovid to be my baby’s sandek since he had personally known Rav Chaim Ozer. My husband was too shy to ask Rav Dovid and actually dared me to call him myself, which I did. In my broken Yiddish I asked him to be the sandek and he replied that he would be happy to if my husband could arrange a ride for him, which of course he did.
Each year when we called Rav Dovid to wish him a shanah tovah, he always asked after his “sandekel,” our son.
A few years later, it was time to celebrate Chaim Ozer’s bar mitzvah. I had invitations specially printed just so I could send one to Rav Dovid. Sadly, he was niftar a few weeks prior to the simcha.
Who would have thought that a European gadol like Rav Dovid Lifshitz, the Suvalker Rav, not only would have had such an impact on the lives of generations of yeshiva bachurim, but also would have enriched the life of a second-generation American young lady?
Rav Dovid Lifshitz, zt”l, a humble, caring, and gentle Torah giant, was my rebbe too. I am truly blessed.
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